History of The Joseph Needham Foundation
for Science & Civilisation
The East Asian History of Science Trust, U.K.
(subsequently renamed The Needham Research Institute)
Dr. Joseph Needham and Dr. Lu Gwei-Djen
at the NRI construction site
The East Asian History of Science Trust (subsequently renamed the Needham Research Institute) EAHST was set up in England in the early 1960s by a group of Dr. Needham supporters who realised the importance of continuing the monumental Science and Civilisation in China project, preserving his unique library, and finding financial resources to sustain the Needham legacy via the construction of the Needham Research Institute in Cambridge, completed in 1992.
For more details visit www.nri.org.uk
The East Asian History of Science Foundation USA
After a hiatus of over 20 years, Dr. Joseph Needham was granted a visa to the US to accept an honorary degree at the University of Chicago in June 1977. A group of close friends and supporters led by Dr. Clifford A. Shillinglaw, and Mr. Irvin (Bud) Salk (an assistant to Dr. Needham at UNESCO in Paris in 1948 and younger brother of Jonas Salk, who was "the father of the polio vaccine"). Ambassador Phillips Talbot (distinguished journalist and diplomat, then President of the Asia Society in New York - he became a good friend of Needham while stationed in India during the 1940s), and others launched a fundraising drive to support the construction of a permanent library following Dr. Needham’s immediate retirement. To overcome the tax-exemption issues for US benefactors in remitting funds across the Atlantic, the group founded the EAHSF Inc in late 1977, and worked tirelessly to secure funds from major corporations and non-profit foundations, including the Alfred Sloan Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Coca-Cola Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and Mellon Foundation, among others. Apart from the Kresge Foundation’s matching gift for the construction of the permanent Needham Library, the bulk of the contributions were for the smooth running of the Library.
Dr. Shillinglaw, a senior executive of the Coca-Cola Company acquired an intense interest in things Asian, particularly China, India, and Japan. He became acquainted with Dr. Needham after reading Vols. 1 and 2 of the SCC series in the mid-60s and became close friends thereafter. He was especially notable for his early financial support to the EAHST in Cambridge, being a driving force behind Dr. Needham’s long delayed visit to the U.S. in mid-1977, and the leading role in establishing the EAHSF New York in late 1977. Treasuring such friendship, Dr. Shillinglaw’s photo was prominently mounted above Dr. Needham’s Director’s desk. It was also through Dr. Shillinglaw that Dr. Peter Lee, a young research chemist with the Company’s Corporate R&D department, was offered an opportunity to assist in Dr. Needham’s SCC project. This was the beginning of Lee’s involvement with the Cambridge scholar from the late 70s. Upon his death, the family donated the Shillinglaw Memorial Fund to the NRI.
Following Dr. Shillinglaw's untimely death in early 1979, Ambassador Talbot then assumed the Chairmanship for several years and was subsequently succeeded by Mr. John Diebold (a visionary office automation czar), Prof Nathan Sivin (scholar and collaborator of the SCC series), and Dr. Robert Oxnam (actively involved with Ambassador Talbot in the formation of the New York entity), respectively.
The EAHSF Inc was renamed the Needham Research Institute, USA in the 2000s.
With the major objectives largely achieved over the years, Dr. Robert Oxam, president of the EAHSF USA (then also or former President of the Asia Society) and speaker of the 5th Joseph Needham Memorial Lecture in Hong Kong in 2006, after consultations with both the NRI and EAHSF HK, decided to disband the East Asian History of Science Foundation USA in 2008.
1979 - Present
The Joseph Needham Foundation for Science & Civilisation Hong Kong
Following the establishment of the EAHST in the US, a Hong Kong branch was similarly established in 1979 by Professor F. Peter Lisowski, Mr. T. Y. Lee, and Dr. Peter L. Lee under the guidance of Peter Burbidge, Chairman of the EAHST UK. To facilitate local fundraising in Hong Kong, it was re-registered as the East Asian History of Science Foundation in 1981 and inaugurated by Dr. Joseph Needham in Hong Kong on 14th October that year. The newly reincorporated foundation subsequently launched a series of fund-raising activities for building a permanent library and the endowment of the Needham Research Institute. Between 1982 and 1988, the East Asian History of Science Foundation in Hong Kong was instrumental in raising most of the funds for the construction of both the main library building and the south wing addition of the NRI in Cambridge.
Although the fund-raising activities have focused mainly on the building of the library facilities and the endowment of the Institute, the Foundation has also been active in organizing lectures in Hong Kong to promote public interest in the history of Chinese science and technology. Travel grants have also been provided to scholars from China and Hong Kong to the Needham Research Institute. In 1995, EAHSF(HK) awarded a graduate fellowship to Mr. Mei Jianjun from the People's Republic of China to attend Cambridge University, where he successfully completed his Ph.D. in archaeology in 1999. Dr. [now Professor] Mei has been the NRI Director since January 2014.
After almost 40 years of diligently pursuing the core values of the Needham scholarly legacy, EAHSF has finally adopted a new name, The Joseph Needham Foundation for Science & Civilisation Hong Kong. With this name change, we are firmly committed to bringing the Foundation to the next level of excellence by working closely with the local academic community, while partnering with the SAR Education Bureau in making the STEM joint series as a “go-to” event among secondary students. Moreover, our foundation together with the Needham Research Institute (NRI) will endeavor to perpetuate the Needham legacy with vigor.
Officiating the opening of EAHSF by Drs. Philip Mao and Joseph Needham at the City Hall, Hong Kong, 1981
Past Directors of
EAHSF / JNSFC
Name of Past Directors Name in Chinese Title/Profession Period Served
Dr. ANN Tsi Kai 安子介 Company Chairman (Decd)1979 – 1984
Mr. BURBIDGE, Peter G Chairman, EAHST Cambridge, UK (Decd)1979 – 1981
Prof CHAN, Tony F 陳繁昌 President, HKUST 2017 – 2018
Prof CHU Ching Wu, P 朱經武 President, HKUST 2002 – 2009
Mr. FOK, David A. 霍兆全 Solicitor 1991 – 2017
Mr. GRABOWSKI, John Solicitor 2000 – 2002
Prof HO Peng Yoke 何丙郁 University professor (Decd)1984 – 1987
Sir HOTUNG, Joseph E. Company Director 1991 – 2001
Prof KAO Kuen, Charles 高琨 CUHK President/VC (Decd)1994 – 2003
Mr. KING, Douglas J Businessman 1996 – 2003
Mr. LAM Ping Leung 林炳良 Barrister (Decd)1979 – 1994
Prof LAU Juen Yee, Lawrence 劉遵義 CUHK President/VC 2005 – 2011
Dr. LEE Jung Kong 利榮康 Company Director (Decd)1980 – 1911
Prof LEE Ngok 李鍔 University Professor (Decd)1994 – 2019
Mr. LEE Tsung Ying 李宗瀛 Deputy Editor-in-Chief (Decd)1979 – 1993
Dr. LEUNG Ding Bong, Ronald 梁定邦 Physician and Bank Chairman 1985 – 1999
Mr. LEVENTAL, Dennis A Business Executive (Decd)1996 – 1997
Mr. LEVIN, Burton Career diplomat/educator (Decd)1991 – 1995
Prof LI Kwok Cheung, Arthur 李囯章 CUHK Professor/President 1984 – 2002
Prof LISOWSKI, F. Peter University Professor (Decd)1979 – 1987
Prof MA lin 馬臨 CUHK President/Vice-Chancellor (Decd)1987 – 1999
Dr. MAO Wen Chee, Philip 毛文奇 Surgeon & Chairman (Decd)1980 – 2003
Mr. SALLNOW/SMITH, Nick R. Company Director 2014 – 2015
Mr. STEVENSON, George E. S. Solicitor (Decd)1980 – 1991
Prof TSUI Lap Chee 徐立之 HKU Vice-Chancellor 2003 – 2015
Prof WANG Gungwu 王賡武 HKU Vice-Chancellor 1987 – 1996
Mrs. WONG, Mary ( Mrs. PL Lam) Business Manager (Decd)1979 – 1994
Prof WONG Siu-lun 黃紹倫 University Professor 1998 – 2020
Prof YOUNG Tse Tse, Rosie 楊紫芝 University Professor/Physician 1987 – 1997